The fact that I feel lucky to not have experienced a major sexual assault disturbs me more and more every time I see that status. I feel fortunate to have never been raped or molested, like so many of my friends have been.
I feel blessed because I’ve been followed, cornered, and groped, but those grimy hands never made it too far under my clothes.
The customer who pointed out my male coworkers, one by one, and asked if I was sleeping with them didn’t wait for me outside. The boy who worked for months to get me on a date pinned me underneath him on his couch, but didn’t fight back too much when I started struggling and shoving him off of me. The coworker who accused me of being racist because I didn’t acknowledge his comments about my ass did follow me to my car, but didn’t full-on chase me when I sped up to get away from him.
A guy I had had a crush on for a year finally kissed me, only to grope me harshly and without my consent ten seconds later, but he “just” texted me about how angry he was that I had run away when he wouldn’t stop. Sure, members of a bachelor party surrounded me in an isolated corner of a restaurant I worked at and demanded sexual favors, but they were just drunk and having fun… right?
I felt demeaned, dirty, but lucky. When I spoke up about many of these incidents, I was often made to feel overdramatic or too sensitive. I turned most of these stories into funny anecdotes about bad dates, attempting to make each emotional scar into the joke others treated it as. I have been told over and over again, “Guys are just like that!”
“He was drunk, he didn’t know what he was doing.”
“I mean, that sucks, but you shouldn’t have led him on by going out with him.”
These kinds of stories, of which I have entirely too many, so often end in tragedy, in physical violations that take hold of the victim’s spirit. I’ve watched too many of my friends, my sisters, walk through the shame and guilt that comes with sexual assault. I know exactly what certain men have done to people I love, but I don’t have the power to punish them for it. Being a girl is a helpless feeling sometimes. Every time I walk to my car at night, swipe right, or even sometimes when I smile at a strange man, there’s a little voice in my ear reminding me how vulnerable I am. It’s exhausting. You can help effect change to make that voice less necessary.
Call out your friends when they’re crude and sexist, even when it’s in private, away from girl’s ears. Listen when the women in your life tell you about these experiences. I mean, truly listen. Your feedback isn’t needed. Your understanding is. Become someone who is utterly intolerant of anything that makes another human feel less significant or afraid. Use the voice and the power you have to amplify the voices of the vulnerable ones in your life, not to talk over them.
It is always, always your business to speak up, to intervene, and to change this culture of sexism, assault, and intimidation. Don’t do it because women are daughters or mothers or sisters, do it because we— along with every other vulnerable group— are humans, and we deserve to be treated as such. Let the horror of these “Me too” statuses truly sink in, and let it make us all better.
Tim-Tam lover, Mean Girls aficionado, lifelong advocate for the discontinuation of Comic Sans.